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Whores & Great Poets ~ Part One

11:07 AM PDT on June 17, 2011

    "Whores and Great Poets Part One: Never Trust a Man Who Doesn't Like Baseball"

    Leonard Planchon has a first-rate hangover and a two-day beard. He is clutching a longneck bottle of MGD as if it were the last thing in the world he could hold onto.

    "Did I ever tell you, Gus, that I was born during the 1955 Dodgers-Yankees World Series?" Leonard says, not looking at me but staring absently at the tireless energy of the ESPN anchors on the mute flatscreen plasma TV behind the bar.

    It's a gray Wednesday afternoon; the "board-certified meteorologist" on Channel Seven news suggested, in a funereal tone, that there was a 30 percent chance of rain, a weak, disorganized system approaching L.A. from the north, setting up the sort of condition that's not quite sweater weather but too cool for shirtsleeves, a climate that awakens my irritable disposition, making this a perfect day for hiding out in a bar like Dusty's, where my foul mood will not be noted, observed, or commented upon.

    I had been pondering a Bukowski poem, The Suicide Kid, about a guy who "went to the worst if bars hoping to get killed" but all he succeeds in doing is "getting drunk again" and the drinks keep coming as bar patrons keep buying for the guy, when Leonard mentioned his 1955 birthday, apropos of nothing, just making what passes for conversation in a dive bar on a gray Wednesday afternoon in Highland Park.

    "I was born in '58, the year the Dodgers moved to L.A.," I tell Leonard as I flag the bartender, a curvy, heavily-tattooed Latina femme fatale named Diane, for another round of beers.

    "My dad was a sportswriter for the New York Herald," Leonard began as Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire begins to blast on the jukebox in the corner near the pool table. "While my mom was in the hospital in labor -- a long one, almost fourteen hours -- Dad was running, literally running, back and forth between the maternity ward where there were no TV sets anywhere and a litttle neighborhood beer bar on the corner to watch Game Two of the series. When the game was over he rushed back to the hospital, scribbled his copy in a looseleaf notebook and sent it to the Herald offices by flagging down a cabbie and giving him precise instructions where to go and who to deliver the notebook to." Leonard paused to clink our beer bottles together in salute as he started in on his fresh one. "And that is why I never trust a man doesn't like baseball."

    I don't quite follow Leonard's logic but I nod my agreement anyway; get two writers together in a bar and the conversation will invariably turn to the esoteric and sublime; later on that night, or perhaps some night two weeks from now, I'll suddenly grasp what he was saying; writers speak in shorthand to each other, at least the good ones do.

    "I need a writing project, Gus," he tells me with sudden urgency, looking at me as if I have an idea to sell or share with him. If I had any ideas I would be writing them instead of straddling a bar stool next to another broken-down scribbler. "Something to put my name back out there after all that bullshit with the network over Castaway Chef. Hey -- you wanna go down to El Sombrero for a margarita? My treat."

    "Sure," I said after a considerable pause; a down-and-outer never wants to appear too eager at the prospect of a free drink.

    "We can take my car," Leonard says. "I just need to swing by my place and change clothes real quick."

    And that began my ill-fated afternoon and evening on the town with Leonard Planchon.

    (c) 2011-12, Rodger Jacobs, All Rights Reserved

    Part Two coming next Friday!

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